Slough Children First Limited on track for 'good' Ofsted reports council

James Bagley. Local Democracy Reporter

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Council bosses say ‘requires improvement’ children’s service is on the 'right trajectory' to being rated ‘good’ by school watchdog.

The formerly known Slough Children’s Services Trust, which was independent from the council, has had a rocky journey where it was rated as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors at one point and has wrestled with its finance for years.

But improvements have been made as their rating changed to ‘requires improvement’ in January 2019.

Slough Borough Council (SBC) decided to step in and take over the company and change its operating model to ensure better communication and financial monitoring.

Not only did this mean a name change, Slough Children First Limited, but also included moving staff into Observatory House and absorbing their £5.5m debt.

Speaking at cabinet meeting on Monday, July 26, council officers have said the integrated system and better communications with SBC will bring the service on the right path to being rated ‘good’.

Councillor James Swindlehurst (Lab: Cippenham Green), leader of the council, said: “The fact we have a new model and certainly much better dialogue between the council and the company, and between the board of directors and ourselves channelling financial information.

“We’re not in a place that we were in the previous Trust’s model where we felt that the Trust just spent money and asked us for a cheque afterwards, causing us significant financial turmoil behind the scenes.

“We’re now in a place where we’ve got proper antennae and communication going on around all that work, which should make things easier in a more challenging environment we are now in general.”

Since the company became wholly owned by the council in April, behind the scenes, staff have been moving into Observatory House, funding has been approved by the Treasury, got a full board panel in place, and adding a combined role of chief exec and director of children services.

This combined post remains vacant.

Services, such as parts of the early help hub, have been transferred to the company to ensure 'seamless' operations.

Cllr Swindlehurst described it as a 'tortuous journey', but this model is 'better' than previous that government imposed on them, which brought 'very limited accountability' to SBC for services they were splashing out millions on for the Trust to deliver.

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